Appreciating the Windows Server 2016 Desktop Experience

We’ve talked a lot about Nano Server in this blog, but we know many customers will still appreciate the full desktop experience on Windows Server. Here’s what you get when you install that option and why you would want to use it.

When you install Windows Server with the full desktop experience, you are getting the same great Windows 10 UI experience with the added ability to install server roles and features. Features like Streaming Media Services, Windows Server Update Server, and RDS workloads run best on the full desktop experience.

In recent Windows Server 2016 Technical Previews, you may have noticed that the Windows Server with Desktop Experience installation option included a few additional Windows Client only features such as Microsoft Edge, Windows Store Client, and the Modern Calculator.

These features were temporarily included to gather additional feedback on their potential uses on Windows Server before shipping our RTM release. In the Windows Server 2016 RTM, they are replaced with the following:


If you are using...                               Now use...

Windows Store Client          >>>          Windows Store for Business

Microsoft Edge                    >>>          Internet Explorer 11

Modern Calculator App       >>>          Classic Calculator


We expect most folks will not be affected by this change. However, if you have built any automation, processes, etc. that leverage these excluded features, we recommended that you review your usage of them and make any necessary changes to leverage the features that replaced them in the RTM release.


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Comments (42)
  1. Chris Parker says:

    Why did you do this? What’s the significance? Please don’t gloss over the interesting details.

    1. The Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) versions of Windows, which includes Windows Server 2016, don’t include Microsoft Edge or many other Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. These apps and their services are frequently updated with new functionality, and can’t be supported on systems running the LTSB operating systems.

      1. James G says:

        Yes, but there are several reasons why windows server 2016 should have an option to install the store and edge. Most importantly, there are several services and built-in features of Windows 10 that are still present in windows server and therefore should not be included if there is no option to use them. For example, MAPS downloaded broker service, Why is it there in the server? All of these unnecessary services are now in server but they do not utilize the apps that they were put into the client for. We understand that Windows Server had to be developed rather quickly, and most of the focus had to be on the new features, however, I strongly feel that by leaving out the store and Edge, this leaves a lot of functionality still in the Server 2016 desktop experience that is unnecessary added fluff. There are many people who install server on their laptop as well, and have been using it as a desktop hyper-v server against best practices, but still wanting to use it for day to day use and administration. I have always used a server on one of my laptops, and would have liked to be able to develop and install windows store apps on the server. Hopefully, you will look into adding an optional package in the future with the store and edge, since the functionality is still in there, and all the extra services that are doing nothing now that edge and the windows store is missing.

        1. jbruns2010 says:

          If I had to rate the quality of Windows Server 2016, I give it a C-

          I opened 6 Powershell cases against it (5.1) and only 1 got enough attention to actually warrant a fix.

          As to the W10 services active on Server, totally agree. It represents lazyness on the part of MS to strip out those services that have no business being on server.

          MS has only created a large burden on enterprise customers to 1) stumble on alerting for services that are unneeded and won’t start, 2) having to either disable the service or set it to manual, 3) customize alerts to ignore that W10 service.

          Completely unacceptable.

      2. Martin G says:

        If you don’t include Edge, you are effectively pushing away people from using it in RDS/XenApp/VMware-environments. What should we us? IE11? (Allow me a pause to laugh sarcastically in your general direction).

        1. John Victor says:

          We are using an Azure-based Server 2016 RDS to support computer training classes. Since our training curriculum is Windows 10 oriented, we hope to allow students to see Edge on the RDS session, which is currently not possible. I sincerely hope that Edge will be included on Server 2016, at least as part of the Remote Desktop role.

  2. damazta says:

    I second James. I understand that you can’t have OSes, binaries and apps “as a service” in the land of “legacy” LTSB. But I don’t understand why that disqualifies Edge by default. Couldn’t you just keep updating it simultaneously with the rest of the code base every couple of months? I’m not aware that Edge has it’s own, dedicated updating mechanism, or does it? On the other hand, IE is so stone-age by now that it is beginning to show serious compatibility issues with lots of newer html (5). Plus, IE is bloated, slow and clunky. I’d really appreciate an option to install Edge optionally. And James is right – there is still lots of bloatware and remnant modern stuff in the desktop experience that makes no sense at all anymore without Edge.
    As it stands, I’m forced to use chrome on 2016 servers… go figure!

  3. The strategy is very short sighted. We planned on using the Server 2016 as our next generation RDS platform. One of the big selling points was replacing IE 11 with the modern browser Edge. We are now forced to move Chrome to the center of our browsing strategy.

  4. Hans says:

    We do SharePoint development, which requires Windows Server. So it is a server that acts as a desktop. In addition, we do DevOps from our instances. It is a mistake to not allow this type of role (running client applications on Windows 2016 as we would on Windows 10).

  5. ScottBaitz says:

    +1 to all of the previously mentioned comments. It’s a little absurd to have removed these options without being able to install them separately at a minimum.

    Killing Edge on Server is similar to killing Edge in general. It’s indicating that MS isn’t serious enough about it to fully replace IE.

    Not have the store isn’t as big of a deal, but it’s still an important enough missed option to really hinder the idea of UWP. Isn’t the whole concept that they are Universal? Should they not run on ALL Windows desktop options if desired??

    1. ScottBaitz says:

      And it’s a little frustrating that the default picture/photo viewer is Paint. With a web server, when updating image files, it’s kind of handy to not have to open the images in Paint first to ensure I’m using or renaming the right file.

  6. jay says:

    The decision to removing Edge is weird, even Windows 2016 TP5 has Edge installed.

    As some comments mentioned, Windows Server is also been used as development environment which is a closer to the targeted running environment. The time saving from difference environment is one convenience keep us paying for yearly MSDN Subscription (not cheap). I am afraid, MSDN subscription is slowly turning into an luxury-item instead of shall-have if this kind of decisions continue.

    Thank you for your cares for software development.

  7. ili101 says:

    If Firefox have LTSB version, I believe that Microsoft can manage to make an Edge LTSB version as well…

  8. Andreas Erben says:

    Absurd… power users using workstations still often prefer server OSs … and developers, too. You should not try to think too much for your customers.

  9. BeM says:

    What a joke…. Ooow No it’s not funny at al.
    Why not in the desktop experience option, till the last preview it was available.

    What do we tell our internal customers who are using RDS that has to be almost identical to a desktop experience.

    Now you are pushing customers into a direction where they are going to use 3rd party browser and this not only on the RDS servers but also locally ont their desktop or laptops. Because they want the same user experience.

  10. home page says:

    Keep up the excellent job !! Lovin’ it!

  11. MarcK4096 says:

    It makes sense that these items aren’t included in the LTSB. What’s disappointing is that the LTSB is being forced on users of Windows Server.

  12. Craig Nelsen says:

    Is this sudden deletion of Edge also the reason why the Flash plugin doesn’t load on IE11 on the RTM version? Was trying to setup a Server 2016 Management Station that includes managing VMware and of course, it needs flash. I thought I was good to go with IE11, as flash launches ok on Win 10 and the previous tech previews….

    1. beastofpray says:

      @Craig Nelsen

      Have exactly the same problem here. Realized that they removed Edge, try to use Flash in IE11 and failed.
      There is no way to install it manually, the “Shockwave Flash Object” Add-On is listed as activated but doesn’t work.

      Basically there is now way to use this in XenApp or RDS solutions, which is really bad.

    2. beast90 says:

      Have the exact same question, any solutions?

      1. Craig Nelsen says:

        Use at your own discretion, but I did figure out how to make flash work on Server 2016. I copied the macromed directories from my windows 10 box, both under system32 and SysWoW64 and then went and registered the ocx files via regserv32 and now flash works for me in my limited case use of VMware web interface.

    3. Stefano says:

      you can manage vsphere and vcenter with the new vsphere html5 webclient. Search “VSPHERE HTML5 WEB CLIENT”

  13. Hansruedi Müller says:

    My opinion is completely different. Why should I want a full Desktop Experience on a Server as a Standard GUI?
    Really stupid decision to have only the possibility between full bloatware or Core. No decision anymore for a more or less small Server GUI as it was standard on earlier Versions and a separate Feature Package to add Desktop Experience if you want to do.

  14. Susan says:

    With all due respect and no personal insults intended as we in California now support recreational marijuana use as well, but what is Mr. Benisch smoking up there to make a statement that “we expect most folks will not be affected by this change”?

    On the one hand Microsoft touts that Windows 10 is the most secure operating system ever because the Edge browser places Flash in a sandbox and over here Mr. Benisch states “we expect most folks will not be affected”.

    Yes folks will be affected, they will be installing Chrome. Please on behalf of your RDS customers that don’t have everything cloud based yet and will still be deploying RDS servers, please have a RDS meeting with the Windows server team and reconsider this decision.

    1. Aeriden says:

      Ironic on the mixed messages, isn’t it? So is Edge the most secure browser (in which case it should be included in the server)? Or isn’t it (in which case it should be removed from Windows 10)? 😉

      Further strange that non-LTSB Windows Server 2016 editions don’t include Edge either.

  15. Ricardo says:

    I wanted to use Windows Server as a Selenium Grid to test my website with MS Edge, Chrome and Firefox. Now MS Edge won’t get tested and the experience of MS Edge users will be crap. Thank you Microsoft, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

    1. Clint P says:

      @Ricardo, do your IE11 Selenium tests work okay with the Nano server?

  16. Ricardo says:

    I wanted to create a Selenium test environment with MS Edge, Firefox and Chrome for my website. Now users of Edge won’t have a good experience. Thank you Microsoft, you are shooting yourself in the foot and pissing off developers.

  17. Gerrit Heinen says:

    You guys ever thought of the Photo viewer app? This one is also not available on the same terms I assume.
    so the default photo viewer is paint (wow….serieusly?)

    Can’t find any articles besides this one that comes close to a explanation for the missing photo viewer in RDSH 2016

  18. Angry in Indiana says:

    No Edge in Server 2016? Great job Microsoft: You just killed our organizations one motivating factor to upgrade our remote desktop services to 2016.
    Furthermore, on any other server that has the full GUI installed, why wouldn’t you want a modern and compliant browser with better security versus the dated and increasingly incompatible IE? I seriously wonder sometimes if anyone at Microsoft has any brain cells left.

  19. Netz0 says:

    Edge can be enabled with a few hacks there and here but it requires changing policies and some security settings. Our Windows Server 2016 users have asked us and we done it before in the Windows Server cloud/server offerings. We prefer this vs customers installing Chrome or other software’s in their servers. Why Microsoft decided not to offer Edge in the Desktop Experience mode at least as an optional is beyond me. Maybe it is because it has Flash build in, which personally I think makes Edge insecure. Microsoft should disable Flash for once and not ship it with Edge (not even on desktops).

  20. Is there any (worthwile) point now in upgrading an RDSH environment from 2012 R2 to 2016? We’d have to switch to Google Chrome …

  21. PeterFnet says:

    Wow; been starting to fall in love with Edge. Been using it on mobile and desktop and loved the integration. Now, this… the releasing of Server 2016 without it… Yikes.

  22. Darren says:

    – save the below to a .reg file then run “merge”. Windows 2016 has the files, just the registry entries need to be added.

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00









    * To enable the “Windows Photo Viewer” in windows 2016:

    “How to Enable Windows 10 Photo Viewer in All Editions?”

    The article is for Windows 10, but I’ve just confirmed that it works in Windows Server 2016 too.

    In Windows 10, the “photos store app” is used instead of “Windows Photo Viewer”.

    However, in Windows Server 2016, the store is disabled, so Windows Server 2016 doesn’t have either of the above apps.
    (Manual installing of store apps “might” work, but I haven’t tried, and no idea if they would be kept up to date).

  23. This is clearly a political choice designed to “please” naysayers and negative people that whinge whenever something “new” happens their way.

    Microsoft used to be a positive force for change, by pushing innovations (such as Edge) to their clients – Why are you now trying to please no-one (by not deciding)?

    In the next few days I’m deploying an RDS solution to our client and I’d be laughed at if I presented Internet Explorer as the “main browser” solution (Edge would’ve been an entirely different story).


    Andrea Matesi

  24. Bartosz M says:

    This is joke? How can I say to people, that they can’t longer use their favourite Photo Application, and they must use “Paint”. RDS on Windows 2016 without apps from Store is useless.

  25. Shiji says:

    I have a LOB(line of business) offline licensed app, is there a way to install in Windows Server 2016?
    I have installed WS 2016 w Desktop Experience.

    1. Shiji says:

      This is a Windows Store App downloaded from the microsoft business store.

    2. Charles says:

      Using powershell cmdlet add-appxpackage to install the offline package.
      Store for Business is available, but it does not allow getting the Windows Store App from Windows Store or LOB (online) apps. Only LOB(offline) option is available in RTM.

  26. David Taylor says:

    “We expect most folks will not be affected by this change” How the hell do you expect users no longer having access to windows store purchased apps will not affect them. I guess you think everyone has plenty of extra money and won’t even notice having to buy them again in the business store.

  27. I’m thoroughly lost with this decision. I use Windows server 2016 on Workstations with AWS. Works great, except now my employees and I can’t use edge or any of the products from the Windows store. That’s on the silly side don’t you think? Why bother having a windows store at all! Let us install the Play Store if your going to do that… actually, I wonder if I can install the play store…

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